Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

View topic - Which method for Kanji

Which method for Kanji

Have a textbook or grammar book that you find particularly helpful? What about a learning tip to share with others?

Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 07.10.2008 5:50 pm

yukamina wrote:You're clinging too much to what Heisig says.


I think it is fair to criticize that aspect of the book because you can't expect that everyone using it has an Internet support system to tell them what to do. In my experience, the people who use Heisig that actually realize what learning kanji means in the context of learning Japanese as a whole are in the minority. Everyone I have met in real life who tried to use Heisig saw it as a magic bullet; a way to learn Japanese in 2 months without having to work very hard. Most of the people I have seen online also feel this way -- it wasn't until coming to this forum that I finally saw people who seemed to realize what Heisig did and did not do.
-Chris Kern
User avatar
Yudan Taiteki
 
Posts: 5609
Joined: Wed 11.01.2006 11:32 pm
Native language: English

Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby furrykef » Thu 07.10.2008 9:25 pm

Heh, I never saw Heisig that way, although I did think I could get through the book a lot faster than I ended up doing. A matter of a couple of weeks became more of a matter of a year, but that's because I often put the book down because it was very tiring to study Heisig (although I never, ever stopped drilling my kanji flash cards until about a month ago, when I was going to abandon Heisig at #1827 -- and I picked that up again upon discovering kanji.koohii.com, whereupon I also finished the book). If you use the aforementioned kanji.koohii.com, I think most of the tiring aspects of Heisig go away, so somebody else who uses it from the beginning will probably get through the book a lot faster than I did.

In fact, kanji is pretty much the one thing that has kept me from studying Japanese since 2003, because I quickly became convinced that the studying methods I was using were not working and I needed something new, but I didn't know what, exactly. Now that I have finished RTK1, I no longer have cause to be afraid of the kanji and I can continue. Yes, I know it's still going to be far from trivial, but I don't think kanji is going to pose me nearly as many problems as it used to.

Also, I'll add that Heisig did not say you cannot study Japanese at all while going through Heisig; he just said you cannot study kanji by other means along with Heisig. That still allows you to study the spoken language, as well as possibly all-kana text. I don't know if this matches his intention, but he still does not explicitly prohibit it.

- Kef
Founder of Learning Languages Through Video Games.
Also see my lang-8 journal, where you can help me practice Japanese (and Spanish, and Italian!)
User avatar
furrykef
 
Posts: 1572
Joined: Thu 01.10.2008 9:20 pm
Native language: Eggo (ワッフル語の方言)
Gender: Male

Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby gilozoaire » Sun 10.12.2008 10:16 am

I've been using the Heisig method for 3 months now and have reached the 1000 kanji bar. This method is extremely useful but has a lot of problems.

The ordering of the kanji in the book doesn't suit me, I prefer to learn the more common ones first. So I decided to take liberties with the method and not respect his order, and study kanji grade by grade, and for words I already now. I also include compounds when I feel it is necessary, because I don't want to just study english keywords. I want to make what I learn immediately useful. If they are several elements I do not know in a "common" kanji, I often also include other kanjis sharing those elements.

I tried to keep what I found interesting and effective in his method (mainly the use of mnemonics and stories) and ditched the rest. For simple kanjis, I also do not create stories and just remember them graphically. I also add non-joyou kanji when I feel I need them... the knowledge of the "elements" or primitives helps me create stories for kanjis that are not included in the first book.

The main benefit of switching to this style has been motivation: the number of kanjis I learn per day has increased a lot. Also, when I'm in front of a japanese text, I experience less anxiety than I used to when kanjis were unfamiliar. Learning the sounds associated with the kanjis is also a lot easier because I recognize the kanjis.

All in all, if you respect his method to the letter, you will probably find it very boring and pointless. If you do what you want with the method and transform it to suit your needs, it becomes an interesting tool.
gilozoaire
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun 10.12.2008 9:56 am

Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby furrykef » Sun 10.12.2008 3:49 pm

gilozoaire wrote:The ordering of the kanji in the book doesn't suit me, I prefer to learn the more common ones first.


That's odd, because the ordering is one of the most essential parts of the method. If you learn the most common kanji first, you will often learn more complicated shapes that you'll find later on are broken down into more basic, but less common, kanji. In fact, this was a big reason why I started using Heisig in the first place!

But hey, whatever works, right?
Founder of Learning Languages Through Video Games.
Also see my lang-8 journal, where you can help me practice Japanese (and Spanish, and Italian!)
User avatar
furrykef
 
Posts: 1572
Joined: Thu 01.10.2008 9:20 pm
Native language: Eggo (ワッフル語の方言)
Gender: Male

Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby gilozoaire » Sun 10.12.2008 5:10 pm

Well, I must say i followed the order until kanji 700 or so. Then I decided to change my method and did 342 or so in about a week or two, so I had some knowledge of primitive elements. When I find a character with unknown primitives, I have to backtrack and tackle the simple elements first. So for one common but complex kanji, I often add simple but rarer kanjis that are related (usually one or two), just to get used to its form. For each unknown primitive like "person", I directly have access to a lot of new kanjis that are quite common.
So I don't really do the common kanjis in isolation, which would be very harmful. I also find that I learn the primitives faster by seeking them and seeing how they are made (more active).
gilozoaire
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun 10.12.2008 9:56 am

Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby Ben Nielson » Thu 10.30.2008 8:33 am

I'd studied Japanese fairly intensively for about a year before starting RtK. I had this really weird thing happen where I could read and recognize a fair amount of Kanji (recognize like... 600-700? this is a hard number to nail down, but a lot...) but write so very few of them. In fact, if I even tried to write them I would just sort of draw a huge blank - I would have a general image of what they looked like in my mind...kinda... but really unable to write them. And even when I did, I still wouldn't feel very confident in it at all. I would also have a great deal of trouble mixing up very similar characters, but obviously that never fully does go away. :)

Anyways, I completed RtK in 2 months (very doable, 35 per day) and used an SRS program to keep up my reviews with around 95% retention. This took 1 hour a day, then a scattering of 10 minute sessions (usually like 4-5) throughout the day where I'd do SRS reps. Every time I tested a Kanji, I had to write it in the correct stroke order or failed it.

RtK helped me meet those Kanji I didn't already know. It strongly reinforced the ones I did know. Now when I encounter a new character, I know I've seen it before, I can associate it with something in my mind, and it becomes much easier to remember the reading for it. As time goes on, the stories and English keywords just kinda fall away - they are indeed, useless. Heisig says as much himself in his book. What I'm left with is a strong impression of the Kanji in my mind that can then be (much more easily) built upon.

This also helped make new vocabulary acquisition so much easier - as when I encountered a new Kanji in vocabulary words, I didn't have to memorize that Kanji - just its reading (as I could already recognize it).

The system's real beauty is in teaching you how to break apart the Kanji into manageable parts - then rebuilding them when you want to write them. Before, when I looked at a completely new Kanji, I would just see a mess of lines. Maaaaaybe I would recognize some other Kanji or radical I'd studied before. Now, every time I encounter a new Kanji outside the 2100 or so in RtK, my mind systematically deconstructs it into its parts. This makes it so much easier to recognize the next time I see it.

This for only 2 months of study (with the caveat of continued reps on my SRS, for practice...). I think it was pretty worth it.

One more thing about the stories - they really do just sorta disappear. If you keep up your SRS'ing, you will be writing the Kanji so many times that there will just start to be a "right" feel to writing them, without need to call up the story. They kinda just fly out of your hand at that point, without much thinking at all.

I'm about 3 months off the end of RtK - my studying post-RtK is SO much better than before. Much less frustration, as now I actually feel like I at least have a little knowledge of most things I encounter - whereas before, I'd be staring at a newspaper article with at least 50% (the unknown kanji) complete non-comprehension...which was pretty rough. heh... and for most simple things (1 kanji words and many compounds) I can, at the very least, guess the definition if I don't have a dictionary handy. Then throw in some context and can get an incredibly good idea of it.

RtK is just like shaking hands with all the Kanji. Then your reading practice is where you really make friends with them.

Much earlier in this post, something interesting was mentioned in that there aren't many highly literate people that recommend RtK. I just think that most people that study Japanese aren't so aware of the system - or more likely, encountered it AFTER finding other methods. Eh, I don't have much of an answer for that. Maybe all of the benefits I've experienced are really short term and will just disappear soon. :) Also likely is that I do study pretty hard, live in Japan, and get to use this stuff every day - I probably would've been doing pretty well without Heisig. But anyways, I do feel the time spent on it was well, well worth it.

One last thing to end this rather wandering post - I don't really like the criticisms of the story/keywords system. I just think this deserves special mention - like I've said earlier, the stories/keywords are useless (admitted by the author). They're only there to help serve as a mnemonic device that helps you recognize the character. For convenience, the keywords were chosen to correspond to at least one of the Kanji's meanings - but this is only just to provide a little extra help and to keep you from really confusing yourself a lot. Just use them to get the characters into your head, the writing down, then discard (replace, really) them as you learn their real Japanese meanings/readings. :)
Ben Nielson
 
Posts: 10
Joined: Sat 10.25.2008 8:09 am
Native language: English

Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby clay » Thu 10.30.2008 9:21 am

RtK is just like shaking hands with all the Kanji. Then your reading practice is where you really make friends with them.


Ooh, I like that analogy. (not just with RtK, but in general also) The first time one sees a kanji, it can be intimidating. But after seeing the kanji pop up here and there in context while reading it becomes a friend.
TheJapanShop.com- Japanese language learning materials
Checkout our iPhone apps: TheJapanesePage.com/iPhone
User avatar
clay
Site Admin
 
Posts: 2809
Joined: Fri 01.21.2005 9:39 am
Location: Florida

Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby arbalest71 » Thu 10.30.2008 2:09 pm

Ben Nielson wrote:...I could read and recognize a fair amount of Kanji (recognize like... 600-700? this is a hard number to nail down, but a lot...) but write so very few of them. In fact, if I even tried to write them I would just sort of draw a huge blank - I would have a general image of what they looked like in my mind...kinda... but really unable to write them.


I don't think that learning to _read_ kanji is that much more difficult than learning vocab from a book. You can do both at the same time- I guess my roots as a lapsed student of Chinese are showing (Chinese has no decent equivalent for kana that Chinese people actually use- if you want to read Chinese you have to read the characters, so from close to day one you learn them- I'm not sure that's even a good idea, but it is how it usually is, and Chinese students tend to learn a lot more characters than Japanese students, in a given amount of time.) Maintaining your ability to read those kanji is harder- for some reason they fade faster than the sounds.

But yeah, writing them is a whole different story. It's particularly hard now that it's so easy to type Japanese- when I first started learning Chinese typing characters was a black art that few westerners had mastered. The advantage to that was that you wound up writing stuff a lot, by hand. The disadvantages are manifest, or they ought to be ;). I also remember being tested on my ability to read handwritten Chinese, and you have to have your stroke order pretty solid to read the Chinese equivalent of cursive.

Ben Nielson wrote:One last thing to end this rather wandering post - I don't really like the criticisms of the story/keywords system. I just think this deserves special mention - like I've said earlier, the stories/keywords are useless (admitted by the author). They're only there to help serve as a mnemonic device that helps you recognize the character. For convenience, the keywords were chosen to correspond to at least one of the Kanji's meanings - but this is only just to provide a little extra help and to keep you from really confusing yourself a lot. Just use them to get the characters into your head, the writing down, then discard (replace, really) them as you learn their real Japanese meanings/readings. :)


Well, one of the sadder aspects of life is that you will often hear criticisms you don't like (I'm resisting the urge to veer off into current American politics.. resist.. resist.. successfully resisted, though at a high cost). I have to admit that I agree with you that many of the criticisms of Heisig are misguided, or in fact flat out straw. And I do think that calling him a huckster is going _way, way, way_ too far. But I'll absolutely agree with Yudan on one front. I really think that learning kanji should involve actually reading kanji.

I have a basic philosophy about learning things. It says that you need to use methods that are efficient to learn quickly, but that you also need to use inefficient methods to learn solidly. And I also believe that in most fields (particularly those dominated by memory, like languages) there will be several aspects to what you have to learn. If you grant me my premises I think you'll have to agree that the holy grail is an activity that is an efficient way of learning one aspect of Japanese, but that is at the same time an inefficient method of learning some other aspect[s]. The more aspects you can inefficiently learn while efficiently learning some other aspect, the better. Basically, I believe that your activities as a learner should be mutually reinforcing.

And that's the big problem with Heisig. He really wants you to do one thing efficiently, and do nothing else. And his system is set up in such a way that it enforces that, if you follow it religiously. This would be reasonable if there were a good reason for it (ok- I guess that's a tautology) but there isn't, or at least there isn't one that I can see. Heisig makes you forgo the benefits that you could get if you used the best parts of his system while also _actually reading Japanese_. And listening to Japanese. And maybe even speaking a bit.

This is why order matters. It's true that if you only know, say, 800 characters you won't be able to read arbitrary Japanese- it's also true that if you can write 2000 characters, but you know no Japanese, you won't be able to read arbitrary Japanese. But let's guess who can read more Japanese- the person who knows 800 characters (along with a lot of vocabulary that uses those characters, and their readings) and speaks a fair bit of Japanese, or the person who can write 2000 characters, but speaks no Japanese... I hope you didn't have to think about that one.

Heisig has good ideas. I wouldn't call him a huckster- I would call him the first guy to address the fact that where many westerners fall down is kanji. And he's right that that sucks. And Kazumoto is right that that sucks. Being illiterate robs you of the best opportunities to learn certain _very_ important things. Vocab is a big one- you can function fine in day to day life with a couple of thousand words, but you won't be listening to the evening news (more accurately, you won't be understanding it), and you'll be lost if the people around you are talking politics, or philosophy.

I mean, I have no problem understanding most Japanese TV because the dialog is 95% comprised of the same 2000 words- or less, and I am very used to hearing that core vocab. But the news is still hard for me, _even_ when I know the vocab, "sort of". When I don't... On the other hand I can watch the LA nodame cantabile easily because I _care_ about the (admittedly very limited) vocabulary they use that relates to music. I wind up wishing they talked about music a lot more.

And that's another place that Heisig falls down. Boring. I mean, the first 500 characters are likely exciting, but... it must take enormous intestinal fortitude to get through the next 1500. I'm willing to do a certain amount of terribly boring stuff if I'm sure it will help me do what I want to do, but.... wouldn't Heisig be more exciting if you were using the characters to actually read things? I mean, even boring contrived stuff would be better than 3-6 months of day-in-day-out Heisig SRS. Boring is bad- you have to ration boring. You need to do some boring things, but if you do too much boring stuff you'll stop caring. And if you stop caring...

Anyway, Heisig is the first guy to take a bite at the kanji apple, or at least the first guy to gain notoriety for doing it in the way he did. It's not surprising that he screwed it up to some degree. It's also not surprising that other people are going to come along and take the good parts and leave the bad... I think the Japanese have a word for that ;)

The other thing about Heisig is that he is a writer from the last century. In his day the SRS was not well known. If there's one really great thing about Heisig it is that his adherents have popularized the SRS. The SRS is _great_. You just put what you want to remember in and _forget_ about it. So much overhead that I used to spend worrying about when I ought to review things, and how I ought to keep track of thousands of things that I had to review and.. the SRS solves that. I'm not usually a fan of easy solutions, because usually they are neither. The SRS is both.

I think there's a way to combine the SRS and Heisig that makes a lot more sense. The key would be to let people learn any kanji at any time. Just pick a target kanji, and the SRS introduces all the intermediate components for you. So you would just use it while reading and looking things up- see a new kanji, ask for it, get it. simple. The whole idea of ordering things so that everyone follows the same track is very _paper_. And _paper_ is very 90s, if not 80s. As a good rule of thumb- the more paper you use learning a language, these days, the less you will have learned- though there are obviously limits to that... you can't (in any obvious fashion) learn to handwrite kanji without using some paper.. yet.
--

I have it on good authority that I\'m a weirdo, doing weird science.
arbalest71
 
Posts: 142
Joined: Wed 10.11.2006 8:44 pm

Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 10.30.2008 2:15 pm

arbalest71 wrote:if you want to read Chinese you have to read the characters, so from close to day one you learn them- I'm not sure that's even a good idea, but it is how it usually is


The program I'm learning Chinese from does not start characters until about week 7 of the first quarter and we're still using pinyin in the speaking portion of the course now (in second year).

As a good rule of thumb- the more paper you use learning a language, these days, the less you will have learned


Not when the best learning resources are still paper textbooks.
-Chris Kern
User avatar
Yudan Taiteki
 
Posts: 5609
Joined: Wed 11.01.2006 11:32 pm
Native language: English

Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby Ben Nielson » Thu 10.30.2008 5:34 pm

arbalest71 wrote:And that's the big problem with Heisig. He really wants you to do one thing efficiently, and do nothing else. And his system is set up in such a way that it enforces that, if you follow it religiously. This would be reasonable if there were a good reason for it (ok- I guess that's a tautology) but there isn't, or at least there isn't one that I can see. Heisig makes you forgo the benefits that you could get if you used the best parts of his system while also _actually reading Japanese_. And listening to Japanese. And maybe even speaking a bit.


True enough - while I did Heisig, I also continued reading through my grammar books, fiddling around on the Japanese internet, learning some vocab, watching Japanese TV, and speaking everyday with Japanese people. I had reinforcement for the things I was learning outside of the Heisig system.

I will say that I think doing 100% solely the Heisig system is a bad way to learn. Shutting your mind off from Japanese for 2-4 months while just doing that system does not seem like a very good idea to me. Further, yes - that would be godawfully boring. I'd recommend using it as the solution for writing/light recognition of the Kanji combined with your normal study practices. I know not everyone has tons of time - but I'd say that in general, I put about an hour a day into learning the Kanji for the day, about another hour on my normal study habits, then about an hour throughout the day on SRS reviews. That sounds like a lot, I guess... but I think there's never going to be a good alternative to learning Kanji for the very casual student.

For me, I feel like the system worked. But if I was casually studying the language (only 30 minutes to an hour a day of studying), I probably would have hated the system. If it was the only thing I was using to study, likewise I would have hated the system.

Mostly, I just don't really see many other alternatives besides rote memorization of the Kanji which seems incredibly impractical. I think at this point, mnemonics have been shown to be a very efficient way of learning and Heisig's system will present the Kanji to you in a very efficient manner that helps you use previously learned material to build understanding of newly introduced material (while at the same time reinforcing that which you already learned). That last sentence got a bit confusing. :)

Also one last side note - I've found that through learning myself to write the Kanji, it's made reading other people's handwriting a little bit easier. You start to see the shortcuts they take when writing the Kanji a little bit better. Still though, reading other people's writing is a serious chore. :)
Ben Nielson
 
Posts: 10
Joined: Sat 10.25.2008 8:09 am
Native language: English

Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby AJBryant » Thu 10.30.2008 6:00 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:The program I'm learning Chinese from does not start characters until about week 7 of the first quarter and we're still using pinyin in the speaking portion of the course now (in second year).


I find that both stunning and incredibly sad.

It seems you are constantly surrounded by an environment that favors (or at least seems to unnaturally tolerate) romanization of foreign scripts.

Remind me to put that school on my "do not go" list for the next time people ask me about where to go to study Japanese...

Gah!


Tony
User avatar
AJBryant
Site Admin
 
Posts: 5313
Joined: Sun 10.09.2005 11:29 am
Location: Indiana
Native language: English
Gender: Male

Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 10.30.2008 6:45 pm

AJBryant wrote:
Yudan Taiteki wrote:The program I'm learning Chinese from does not start characters until about week 7 of the first quarter and we're still using pinyin in the speaking portion of the course now (in second year).


I find that both stunning and incredibly sad.


Works quite well; you can make a lot of progress in speaking when you can focus on speaking and not learning characters. Then when you are ready to learn to read, you have enough of a grammatical and vocabulary basis that you can acquire the characters and reading proficiency very quickly. I'm in only second year Chinese (first semester) and we're already giving 5 minute speeches. I doubt that would be possible if had been required from day 1 to learn the characters for every single vocabulary word we learned.

I could go on more, but I'm very pleased with the conversational Chinese ability I've gotten in the short time I've been studying. In 2nd year the class diverges into a speaking class and a reading class, so I'm also learning characters. I just can't write or read everything I can say.

It seems you are constantly surrounded by an environment that favors (or at least seems to unnaturally tolerate) romanization of foreign scripts.


"Favors" would be the appropriate term, although it's favored only for certain teaching purposes; it's used only for reference to support what is primarily an audio-based program.
-Chris Kern
User avatar
Yudan Taiteki
 
Posts: 5609
Joined: Wed 11.01.2006 11:32 pm
Native language: English

Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby AJBryant » Fri 10.31.2008 1:53 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:Works quite well; you can make a lot of progress in speaking when you can focus on speaking and not learning characters. Then when you are ready to learn to read, you have enough of a grammatical and vocabulary basis that you can acquire the characters and reading proficiency very quickly. I'm in only second year Chinese (first semester) and we're already giving 5 minute speeches. I doubt that would be possible if had been required from day 1 to learn the characters for every single vocabulary word we learned.

I could go on more, but I'm very pleased with the conversational Chinese ability I've gotten in the short time I've been studying. In 2nd year the class diverges into a speaking class and a reading class, so I'm also learning characters. I just can't write or read everything I can say.


Ah, okay, I see the logic there. That does make sense.

Part of my frustration with our Chinese program at IU was that there was no "reading concentration" -- in that the class was billed as "conversational Chinese" and we had to waste (imo) lots of time learning vocab about movies and restaurants and actors and sports (lots of basketball stuff -- IU is VERY big on basketball). I wanted a grad-student class in *reading* Chinese -- like the ones they had for French, Russian, German, Spanish, etc. -- that would give you the basics and tell you how it works so you can be turned loose on historical texts. I didn't want to have to talk about Yang Zhimou or Bobby Knight.

Sigh.
User avatar
AJBryant
Site Admin
 
Posts: 5313
Joined: Sun 10.09.2005 11:29 am
Location: Indiana
Native language: English
Gender: Male

Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 10.31.2008 4:22 pm

And the pinyin isn't really overused (IMO) -- when we're actually in the speaking class, we're not allowed to have any notes or books open and we just have to talk Chinese, so it's not like we're reading off of pinyin in class or anything like that.

In the reading class, if the teachers see that you've written in pinyin above the characters in your book, you lose points for the day.
-Chris Kern
User avatar
Yudan Taiteki
 
Posts: 5609
Joined: Wed 11.01.2006 11:32 pm
Native language: English

Re: Which method for Kanji

Postby AJBryant » Fri 10.31.2008 5:08 pm

Cool. Maybe I would have liked a course like that.

Sigh. Mandarin is what did me in, academically. (That, and the fact that things were so ambivalent -- do we learn and use traditional or simplified script? -- that I spent so much time agonizing over that that I never really internalized *anything*.)


Tony
User avatar
AJBryant
Site Admin
 
Posts: 5313
Joined: Sun 10.09.2005 11:29 am
Location: Indiana
Native language: English
Gender: Male

PreviousNext

Return to Learning Materials Reviews & Language Learning tips

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 3 guests